Would You Rather Be King of England, or…?

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Suppose Edward IV–a real mensch, and star of the War of the Roses, who later allowed himself to get all bloated and depraved–were not strictly legitimate; and that, accordingly, he being tainted, all succeeding kings and queens of England were just as illegitimate, and technically and by law and custom, had no actual right to the throne.

But Edward’s younger brother, George, Duke of Clarence, was every inch legitimate; and if Edward IV is ruled out, then George and his children rightfully come into possession of the throne. But of course that didn’t happen. Henry VIII was still murdering George Plantagenet’s descendants well into the following century: nevertheless, the line has survived into the present day.

In one of those neat “Timeline” documentaries, they found “the rightful king of England,” according to all the rules governing such things. It’s a man who lives in a small town in Australia, who has children and grandchildren, a house and car, a job, and friends. He already knew about his Plantagenet descent, but was extremely happy where he was, content with who he was, and much too busy enjoying the life he had to worry about the life he might’ve had, had things turned out otherwise 500 years ago. Indeed, he wouldn’t trade his own house for twenty Windsor Castles.

There is a lesson here. This man in Australia was blessed, and wise enough to know it. Indeed, a normal, comfortable, middle-class life is in itself a great blessing, a gift of God: and throughout history, most of the time, a gift but rarely given. In Edward IV’s time, you were either rich and powerful–a very small minority!–or poor and mostly wretched. It wasn’t until well into the 20th century that a middle class came into being, in most countries.

Would you really want to be the king or queen? Always on display, an endless round of ceremony and flapdoodle, you can’t just go fishing on your day off, if you ever even have a day off–I mean, for this they fought the Wars of the Roses, and other wars, and all those people died? For this they spent several centuries drawing and quartering each other?

We who have wound up in the middle class have an awful lot to be thankful for–and a great responsibility, not to fritter it away. It took a long, long time to create the middle class; and hardly any time at all to destroy it.

11 comments on “Would You Rather Be King of England, or…?

  1. Some great observations, Lee. Fame seems to attract people, just like gold, like a drug. It’s a prison.

    A number of years ago, I was in a large, but out of the way clothing store and I noticed a familiar face, perhaps 100’ away. It was a very famous television/movie actor. I knew the he lived an hour or so away and he was probably in the area to pick up someone at the airport. It all made sense, even famous people have to cool their heels at times and he probably just wanted to kill some time in an out of the way place.

    Any doubts of his identity were erased when he noticed me looking in his direction and his face fell. In one of the best judgments I have ever made, I decided that the best way to show my appreciation would be to leave him to his browsing. I nodded slightly and so did he. He stepped back a couple of feet and disappeared from my view.

    If there’s anything worse than the fame of an entertainer it would be fame as a political figure. Now there is actual power involved, not just the illusion of influence that entertainers project. I can’t imagine why anyone would want to be in such a position.

    A couple of times I’ve had the experience of meeting someone that knew who I was because of something I had written online (concerning my trade). When someone approached me thusly at a trade show I found it disconcerting. I didn’t like it. Now, that is a far cry from fame, that’s just being recognized unexpectedly by one person at a trade show. I can’t imagine the living Hell that celebrities and politicians must experience.

    This guy in Australia is smarter than the majority of people on earth. A middle class life is a true blessing. I pray that I can buy a different home and pay it off before I’m 70, but that’s as close to riches as I care to desire.

    1. Please, contact me through my agent. 🙂 🙂

      I know what you mean. Occasionally I’ll read a news story involving celebrities and almost invariably I don’t recognize any of their names. What really grates on me is this notion that just because someone is famous, they must be important. In the big picture, it just isn’t so.

  2. Actually, Clarence’s children were removed from the line of succession during Edward’s lifetime by an act of attainder against their father. This left Richard, Duke of Gloucester next in line as Richard III, but he was overthrown by Henry Tudor (soon to be Henry VII) at the Battle of Bosworth Field, and Richard’s only legitimate issue (a son) had predeceased him. Henry VII then legitimized Edward IV’s daughter Elizabeth so he could marry her and supposedly unite the houses of York and Lancaster under the new Tudor dynasty. Of course, had Elizabeth’s older brothers survived and been legitimized along with her, they would have been rightfully next in succession ahead of Henry — but very conveniently for Henry, they’d (supposedly) been murdered at the order of Richard III. Myself, as an ardent Ricardian, I suspect Henry of having done away with the young princes and then blaming Richard.

    Sorry. We all like to ride our hobby horses. I’ve just taken mine for a brisk gallop.

    1. Her book was an eye-opener for me, although I’d had my interest piqued by Shakespeare’s Richard, as portrayed by Paul Daneman in the old BBC “Age of Kings” series (not the newer one). Since then, I’ve followed the controversies diligently. I even belonged to the Richard III Society for many years.

      Anyway, I’m happy to hear that you, too, are a Ricardian. 🙂

  3. Proverbs 30:8 “…give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.”
    I used to struggle with my siblings having much more money than myself. Then wisdom won me over as I realized I am one of the wealthiest people in the world by virtue of being in the American middle-class. How many earthlings would gladly trade economic places with me? P.S. I am a committed Christian and my siblings are not, what a wealth difference there is in that!

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